Students find ‘PR–flower’
By Anton Ivanenko
The Belarusian State University’s Institute of Journalism recently welcomed over 500 young guests: future PR specialists and press service officers (from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania). The 5th Open Student’s Forum: PR-Flower — 2012 was a four-day event organised exclusively by fourth year students from the Information and Communication Department. They found and invited partners and sponsors, while organising round table discussions, training sessions and conferences (as part of their curriculum).
“The first forum — which took place in 2008 — had more of an educational character. We had then to explain how PR differs from advertising and marketing, as participants knew little,” explains the Head of the Technology of Communication Department at the Belarusian State University’s Institute of Journalism, Irina Sidorskaya. “Now, the level of understanding of guests has grown significantly. Of course, we still have an educational role but the event has mostly transformed into a venue for experience exchange. We not only teach but also learn from others.”
PR has always tended to be viewed by the public as something necessary following a celebrity scandal! In reality, companies use the media to promote a concept or product to the public. Specialists attended the forum, aiming to teach students how to work with the media to shape a company’s image, react to crisis situations and use social networks. Each branch uses PR in a particular way, varying between the spheres of sport, education, culture and show business. Of course, the idea is different in reality from studying via books. This year, specialists from the Russian PR Academy were invited to share experience but, sadly, failed to attend in person; they communicated with students by Skype — lecturing and answering questions.
Forum participants offered their projects for guests’ judgment, so that the most interesting can be given the opportunity to be realised. Last year, 3rd year student Olga Gerasenko proposed her own concept for Belavia National Airline’s image: highly praised by experts, Olga is now a PR specialist at Belavia. Many other similar examples exist. “This student forum is like an audition for future PR specialists,” says the Director of the Belarusian PR Institute, Natalia Gromadskikh. “The event is attended not only by PR officers but by heads of leading Belarusian companies who are keen to see promising future employees. It’s no easy task to set up such an event but the Technology of Communication Department has succeeded.”
Foreign guests also highlighted the high level of the forum. Among them was a delegation from Tambov, who viewed the event as a worthy rival to similar such actions organised in Russia. “We often visit conferences of this kind but only in Russian cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Barnaul,” explained one Tambov State Technical University student, Lyudmila Pestich. “It’s our first time in Belarus. We’ve arrived with a social project devoted to working with Great Patriotic War veterans.”
“I believe that this conference offers the opportunity to gain experience,” agrees Irina Miloserdova. “Such forums are a good way to build the image of a country, university or chair. Returning to Russia, we’ll definitely tell others of your city and your people. Such events are an opportunity for guests to learn more about Belarus.”